Who needs a sidestroke? A story of a forgotten stroke

Recently I’ve watched a great video guide on a sidestroke and realized I’ve completely forgotten about it planning our blog posts. It is not only me who did that as there’s very little on that subject on the internet. One of the possible reasons is that it is not a competitive style other might be that its particular use cases are very narrow and we can call sidestroke a niche style. But does it mean we don’t need it? There are few types of swimmers who would strongly disagree so let’s look at the reasons why some groups of professionals wouldn’t be able to do their jobs without the sidestroke.

What is sidestroke?

Sidestroke is an ancient swimming style that was born out of the realization that swimming breaststroke with your head above the water was very ineffective and tiring.

Sidestroke gets its name from the fact that the swimmer lies on one’s side with asymmetric arm and leg motion. The hands act like oars and do not waste any power by oblique action. The legs move in opposite directions with legs bent and straighten as they come together. The kicking motion is exaggerated and slow, opening the legs wide to provide more thrust rather than the small, fast movement of the flutter kick.

Lifesaving stroke

Sidestroke is used for towing casualties by lifeguards all the time. Lifesavers don’t use the right arm because they would pull a casualty with it. It is irreplaceable as it allows to help people that are hurt, immobile or unconscious get to the waterside. Towing casualties is also incredibly taxing and requires immense strength and technique form the brave lifeguards all around the world. Sidestroke helps with that being extremely efficient and perfect for difficult and long distance swims. You must admit – that is a very important use case as it literally saves lives.

Military swimming style

Sidestroke is such a great way to move through the water efficiently that the most elite water forces Navy Seals decided to create their own modification of it to train and use it during missions. Those soldiers are the best swimmers in the army and some of the best endurance swimmers in the world so it is a proof that sidestroke is a perfect choice in extreme situations when your speed to efficiency ratio is crucial for survival and success of the mission.

CSS or The Combat Side Stroke developed for Navy Seals gives you speed, low strength drain and smooth profile making SEALS less visible and harder to detect in the water. The modified version of the sidestroke allows swimming just under the water surface making it perfect for covert-ops or missions behind the enemy lines.


As you can see, this weird and funny looking style of swimming is, in reality, a super-stroke used by our amazing lifeguards and by the elite Navy SEALS teams. Try it sometimes and see how long of a distance you can swim using sidestroke!


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